Hosted at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai, the event brought together medical and environmental experts who discussed the causes and dangers of sandstorms, as well as the best way for UAE citizens to protect themselves during sandstorms.
Talking about their decision to launch the campaign, Mr. Mazen Altaruti, Managing Director of MSD Gulf said “On average, the UAE faces between 8 to 10 severe sandstorms each year. In many cases these sandstorms can last for several hours or sometimes even the whole day, bring traffic to a standstill, forcing places of work and school to close and significantly increasing the number of hospitalizations. Officials have suggested that hospital admissions due to respiratory diseases such as asthma have increased by as much as 25% over the last few years, as a result of severe weather; particularly sandstorms. At MSD we are committed to addressing the issues and health problems that affect the local community most, and in the UAE sandstorms are a serious and growing problem.”
In addition to being a major safety issue, with increased car accidents as sandstorms can reduce visibility to almost zero, these storms are a major cause of allergic rhinitis. Sandstorms carry large amounts of allergens including bacteria, fungi, viruses and pollens and because sandstorms have the ability to carry these allergens over large distances, the risk of bacterial and viral infections greatly increases during the sandstorm season.
Elaborating on why sandstorms occur, Mr. Sufian Farah, Weather Forecasting Specialist for the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology in Abu Dhabi said “Sand or dust storms are a weather phenomenon that is represented by a confluence of dust particles carried by turbulent and strong wind to higher altitude; which severely deteriorates the horizontal visibility in terms of meteorology. There are a number of different causes that play a role in dust eruption, dust transportation and dusts rising locally; most of these causes are directly related to the effecting pressure systems. There are different sources of dust and aerosols; however, the most dominant source is dust traveling from neighboring region of Iraq. The wind moves the dust south towards the UAE causing sandstorms.
Mr. Farah went on to add “It is difficult to control sand or dust storms, due to the spread of deserts and sand dunes in the country and the surrounding regions; in fact this is one of the major reasons for the increase in sandstorms over the last few years.”
Talking about the health risk of sandstorms, Dr. Hussain Abdel Rahman, Director of Medical Affairs and Head of the ENT Department at Dubai Hospital said “Sandstorms are a major cause of bacterial and viral infection particular amongst those with weaker immune systems such as the elderly and pediatrics, in addition to those with compromised immune systems. Additionally, because of the large amount of pollen these storms carry, allergies commonly known as allergic rhinitis, are also a problem. In severe cases and when left untreated, allergic rhinitis can lead to asthma, even in patients with no previous history of this illness.³ Children are a particularly high risk group with regards to allergies, with one in five already suffering from asthma and an additional 40% suffering from asthmatic episodes brought on by allergic rhinitis.”
The awareness campaign which is supposed to run over the next few months, in-line with the UAE’s sandstorm season; will focus on providing patients and medical professionals with important information on how to manage allergies and respiratory problems during these sandy months. Globally it is estimated that over 400 million people suffer from allergies, with around one third of UAE adults suffering from allergic rhinitis.
Research has shown that by simply raising awareness of key disease areas the health and well being of citizens is significantly improved.
Thursday, April 4- 2013 @ 11:54 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.